Don Bogen: We were saddened to hear of the death last month of our Advisory Board member C. D. Wright. A few days after she passed away, I met my friend the poet C. S. Giscombe at the Creek Monkey Tap House in Martinez, California. Martinez is the kind of town I think C .D. would have enjoyed: small, a little down at heels, and remarkably diverse compared to the pockets of affluence alternating with economic wastelands that mark the San Francisco Bay area and other parts of the country. Its main sources of employment are county business, two hospitals, and an oil refinery. I like it.
Cecil likes the place too. He cycles over the hills from Berkeley when I’m out there, and we meet for beer and a meal before he catches the train back. That evening we drank to C .D.’s memory and talked about her work. Like Cecil, C. D. is a wonderful poet of place, and I’ve often taught his Giscome Road and her Deepstep Come Shining together. But Cecil told me that his favorite was One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana, a coffee-table book (if you can use that term for something so insightful and moving) she put together with the photographer Deborah Luster. C. D. was kind enough to give my wife and me a copy of this book a dozen years ago when she was in Cincinnati as Elliston Poet in Residence.
I reread One Big Self after I got back from California, and I know why Cecil admires it. C. D.’s energies moving in all directions, her humor, her deft intelligence, her commitment to everyday lives, including prisoners’, and refusal to treat any type of authority with undue reverence—these are qualities of her poetic voice and her personality. As a poet, she explored things in their full contexts, and she was great fun to spend time with. As far as I know, C. D. never got to Martinez or the Creek Monkey Tap House, but we did share a lively evening at the oldest bar in Cincinnati. That and her glorious poems will have to do.